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Artifact Turn Order - Phases of an Artifact Game

May 17th, 2018 | KoldBane

In Artifact, Turn Order is Rhythmic

Artifact is a turn based game, so it’s no surprise that there are distinct phases to each round, as well as the game as a whole. The rhythm of an Artifact game is rigidly set to a specific turn structure. In this article we break down Artifact’s turn order, how each phase works, and any little notes or tidbits that we’ve gleaned from the press releases so far.

Artifact has some classic elements of Card Games (CG’s) and incorporates a few new ideas from its sister game - DotA 2 - to make its concept unique. Let’s go over a few important pieces of information before we begin:
  • One of the new ideas Valve wants to incorporate is multiple game boards, 3 to be exact, that act independently but also affect each other (we’ll refer to these as lanes to fit the Dota 2 theme). Artifact’s turn order goes through each lane step by step.

  • Each lane in Artifact has a tower on either side with 40 health. If you lose two towers, you lose the game. When a tower goes down in a lane, it is replaced by the Ancient, which has 80 health. If your Ancient is killed, you also lose the game.

  • Artifact decks always include exactly 5 hero cards. Hero cards have one of four colors, representing their playstyle. Hero deployment is a key phase in an Artifact game an placing your hero optimally is crucial to success.

  • Item decks exist separately from your main Artifact deck, and items may be purchased at the end of each round - to be used in the next round.

With these pieces of information, let’s dive into the rounds, turns, and phases of Artifact!

First Round of an Artifact Game

On the very first round of a game, the first 3 heroes from your deck will be deployed, one to each lane (the lane placement is random). A few melee creeps will also be spawned and distributed randomly. The round behaves like a regular game round from then on.

Standard Artifact Round

As Artifact has 3 lanes, a regular game round starts with the Deploy phase, then involves focusing on each lane in left to right order. Each lane has its own turn, with its own Main phase and a Combat phase. Once each lane’s turn is completed, the round ends with the Shopping phase. This it the basic game structure and turn order of all Artifact games.

Deployment Phase

Each subsequent round of Artifact will start with a deployment phase. 2 Creeps will be randomly assigned to your lanes, and you can deploy your heroes from the bench. When you deploy a hero, you can choose which lane to deploy them to, but the slot they end up in is randomized. You will also need to be wary of where your opponent might place their hero, since hero deployment is double-blind and you won’t know where your opponent’s heroes are going until after locking in your own hero’s lanes.

Heroes that have been killed have to sit out a round, but they can be redeployed to a lane of your choice during this phase. Heroes do not lose their equipment upon death.

Main Phase

This is where Artifact’s turn order starts going on a lane by lane basis. Each lane has a mana pool, which starts at 3 and increases by 1 with each turn (it can also be increased by more with the use of Ramp cards). This mana is used to play cards to the lane based on their cost. In order to play a card in a lane, you must have a hero of the corresponding color. For example, a blue spell can only be played in a lane with a blue hero.

Some cards are item cards, which can only be played on hero cards that have an open item slot in the appropriate category (weapon, armor, or accessory). All other cards get played to the lane itself.

After playing a single card, priority passes to your opponent, who may either play a card, and back and forth it goes. In Artifact one player starts with priority, but when they play a card they pass priority back to the other player. Choosing whether or not to pass will be an important decision for Artifact players, and one of the strategic nuances of Artifact turn order. Once both players pass the turn, turn order resumes and play moves on to the Combat phase.

Combat Phase

Both Heroes and Creeps attack whatever is directly in front of them during this phase. If a unit isn’t directly in front of another unit, it will either attack the opposing tower or an adjacent enemy unit. You can tell what direction they will attack by the pointer above their card.

The amount of damage each card does depends on their attack, minus the opposing card’s armor. The result is subtracted off the health of the card. Lost health is permanent, and does not regenerate at the end of the turn. Cards attack simultaneously, meaning they will do damage regardless of whether they die in the process.

As you destroy your opponent’s cards, you will earn gold, which is spent in the next phase of Artifact’s turn order - the Shopping phase.

Shopping Phase

Game footage from Eurogamer's video

Once the turn order for each lane is complete, players have a chance to spend the gold they’ve earned on items at the shop.

The shop offers 3 items each shopping phase. The item on the left is completely random, the item in the middle is a random item from your item deck, and the last item on the right is a random consumable.

In Artifact equipment can range from simple, cheap items like Leather Armor that adds 1 armor up to game-changing items like Apotheosis Blade, which gives +8 attack, +4 siege (extra damage to towers that can’t be blocked) and condemns (kills) any card it does damage to.

Ending the Game

As a game of Artifact goes through its turns and rounds the health of towers will begin to fall. Once a tower reaches zero health and crumbles, it will be replaced by an Ancient. The previously described turn order will be repeated until a second tower or the Ancient is killed, which will end the game.

Hopefully this brief breakdown of Artifact turn order gives you a bit of insight into the future playstyle of Artifact. The information provided on Artifact turn order is based on the current reported model for the game, but we expect a few things to change over time.
(Last Updated: January 15th, 2020)

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